Not all of us were infants when we were adopted. As such, in many ways I felt like the "step-child" of adoptees. The truth be told, I think that there are many who need to hear this message. For the first 6 years of my life, I was known as Charles Michael Murphy. My brother David, four years older, and I had many places to call home. We were born in Lake County (to the east of Cleveland) Ohio and lived in Cleveland as well (not the nice part). We went from home to home, without ever really having a true home. We spent time with three foster families (the Js, Bs, and Ks), all of whom were blessings for us. Finally, someone (our caseworker Cathy J.) found us a home.
Dave and I were adopted by an amazing family in Bowling Green, Ohio. My parents, Richard and Joan Conrad, had two natural born children of their own and had decided that they would like to adopt a special needs child. They received a call indicating that a special needs child had not been located, but a special needs situation had arose. That special situation involved two boys who Cathy was desperately trying to keep together. Those two boys were us.
Through my adoption, I received a second chance in life. I went from having absolutely nothing to being adopted by a family where education was critical (dad was a V.P. and professor at the local state university and mom was a saint). More importantly, I was in a home that was stable and there was no longer any abuse, whether it be physical, sexual or substance abuse. But, waking up one morning with a new name, new parents, and a new home doesn't erase the harm that was done. In fact, I don't know that my parent's really knew what they were getting themselves into. Both Dave and myself were rebels and required a great deal of nurturing, discipline, structure, and therapy. When I say that we weren't easy on my parents, it is an understatement.
My parents stayed the course with us. I was somehow blessed with a great mind, quite surprising when you consider where I came from. However, with this bright mind came baggage. I never really tried in school, was always in trouble, and was your typical underachiever. I didn't go to college right after high school because I didn't feel
like applying myself to academics. I tested out of 71 semester hours of college (about 2.5 years) and went back home to Bowling Green State University. After BGSU, I completed my Juris Doctor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and then went on to pursue and LL.M. (Tax) from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Finally, this great mind was starting to work!
Having my mind start working didn't solve all of my problems. You see, I have considered myself to be very lucky. I have always thought of my adoption as an absolute blessing (and it is). However, by always focusing on the positive, I swept the emotional damage under the rug and never realized the tremendous impact those first 6 years had on me. It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to tackle these issues. Someone suggested I start reading books on adoption and predicted that I could probably relate to much of what was being said. They were right!! Tackling those issues has been an absolute blessing.
When I started my quest for books on adoption, I began to notice something. The vast majority of anything written on the subject dealt with the psychological impact on infants. What about people like me? What about those kids whose mom beat them and did drugs in front of them before giving them up? What about those kids who remember everything about who they were? How do we cope? Those answers, sadly, might consume only a few pages of the book, if at all.
And, after reading 8 chapters geared toward those adopted as infants, we'd be lucky to find them.Leaving an entire group out of books is one problem. I have also learned that there are a lot of children "in the system" who are never adopted and "age out". But for a lucky break, I could have been one of those kids. Do those kids have value? YES!! Can they become productive members to society? I certainly believe so.
There are a lot of people who want to adopt, but they mainly want to adopt infants. Even traveling around the world to do so. I think adoption is a wonderful thing and certainly don't want to sound like I'm being critical of those who desire an infant, but there are older kids here who need the same second chance that I received. And, this is how I want to help!! I want to give those other kids a little hope that their "forever home" can be a reality.
Can you help me do so? Are there benefits for the adopting family? You bet there are. My brother and I may have "baggage" but we are just as much my parent's children as my siblings who were natural born. In fact, I can't tell you how many people say to me that they've never seen an adopted child who is so much like the adopting father (for awhile, that wasn't a compliment, now it is the highest compliment). My own children know them as grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, etc.
In short, we have completely assimilated into the family. When I make mention of my parents, there is no question in anyone's mind as to whom I am referring.
Contributed by Charles Conrad, JD